AF is the most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), and involves the two upper chambers (atria) of the heart. Its name comes from the fibrillating (i.e., quivering) of the heart muscles of the atria, instead of a coordinated contraction. It can often be identified by taking ones pulse and observing that the heartbeats do not occur at regular intervals. Risk of atrial fib increases with age, with 8% of people over 80 having AF. This 8% figure includes everyone, not just runners.
It just so happens that my friend had developed Atrial Fib not long before and had the atrial ablation procedure done. His AF was now totally gone. He suggested I see the cardiologist that performed his procedure, Dr Kay at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Medical Center. He told me that UAB Medical Center was one of the three top cardiology centers in the US and that Dr Kay was the best. I went to see Dr Kay and he put me a drug called Flecianide. For much of the last three years I have had to constantly deal with AF. Every time I ran I had to try to keep my level of exertion and my heart rate very low or I would trigger the AF. That was almost impossible, especially running hill repeats. The new drug worked great and since the first if this year I have been able to run as hard as my legs will carry me. But I do not intend to take a drug for the rest of my life and the Flecianide was not perfect. I still had AF episodes occasionally, like during the Mercedes Marathon, and there are other side effects as well. We decided on the Atrial Ablation Procedure. The procedures involves running a catheter up through Iliac vein into the Inferior Vina Cava into the right atrium. Small punctures are made in the groin, arm, or neck area and thin, flexible tubes, called catheters, are inserted and threaded to the heart. Once there, the catheter's tip is threaded through a tiny incision in the wall between the left and right atria (septal wall), and is positioned to ablate tissue around the pulmonary veins or at other sources of erratic electrical signals that cause the irregular heartbeat.